Is this your commute? Yikes.
We had an amazing opportunity today. And we blew it. The sad thing is, the same thing happened last week. You would think we’d learn …
See that map above? The abstraction that is Google Maps Traffic almost makes it easy to convince yourself driving through this sea of color would be bearable. Sure, there’s a troubling amount of that blood-clot red color that only comes out for a 10-car pileup. But hey, there’s also some green in there, so it all averages out to a not-so-bad pinkish-orangish color, right? Surely it won’t be so bad?
What Google’s lovely color-coded maps fail to remind you is that the actual experience of being inside one of those red stripes is one of the more soul-crushing, anger-inducing, wellness-destroying experiences that one can encounter on a daily basis. And on the ground, that red line looks more like this:
Sadly, this experience is a twice-a-day norm for millions of Americans on their daily commute.
So what happened to us this afternoon? A few weeks back, a friend at a local non-profit contacted Faraday and asked if we could come do a demo at his new office. This is an organization that we really respect, and our answer was an enthusiastic “Yes, of course!”. We made plans to drive over with a handful of bikes on an afternoon last week to do test rides and talk with his co-workers about some of the benefits of e-bikes.
Sadly, it was not meant to be. We loaded up the van with 4 bikes, left the parking lot, and immediately entered stand-still bumper-to-bumper traffic. Downtown San Francisco rush hour. Half an hour later, we had moved approximately 3 blocks and it was clear we would miss our scheduled appointment time. Three blocks in half an hour – we were sure there must have been an accident, so, chagrined, we called to reschedule to the same time the following week and returned to the office.
A week later, and a little bit the wiser, we re-packed the van and hit the road, leaving an extra 15 minutes to spare. Approximately 50 minutes later, we had traveled precisely 2.5 blocks, or 0.7 miles. We had averaged 0.84 miles per hour, or about 1/3 the speed of a person out for a casual stroll. Our chagrin turned into outright embarrassment as, for the second time in a week, we made a phone call to cancel our appointment and let down the many dozens of people who had been enthusiastically looking forward to taking a Faraday for a spin.
What does it feel like to sit standstill traffic for nearly an hour? Sadly, I doubt I need to describe the experience – we all know it too well. It is maddening. Stressful. Uncomfortable. Unbearable. It brings out the worst in people. Looking around at our fellow drivers, we saw normal people who surely an hour earlier had been cheerful and polite to co-workers, now swearing at strangers and pounding their steering wheels in anger. Closing their eyes in frustration and disbelief. Rubbing their temples to sooth the pounding headache.
Is this any way to spend nearly 10% of our waking hours? The average American commute is only getting longer. Our commutes consistently rank as the most disliked aspect of our daily lives (behind work, child care, and even chores). When we have such an experience in the morning, how can we expect to show up at the office and respect our co-workers and do our best work? When we have such an experience in the evening, what kind of condition does it leave us in for the few hours in the day we get to spend with our family and loved ones?
It’s no surprise that most of us at the Faraday office commute nearly every day by bike. We’re lucky for it, but it also means that sometime we forget just what the alternative can feel like. Today we got an unhealthy reminder.
Biking won’t be the solution for every commute. In fact, we know that biking may not even be the solution for MOST commutes. But we definitely know that biking can be a solution for MANY commutes – certainly many many more than the 0.5% of Americans who currently use a bicycle for daily transportation.
Today’s experience made all of us in the car sad – sad that what was an excruciating, but hopefully rare, experience for us was a daily reality for way too many people here in the bay and elsewhere. It also re-doubled our resolve to try to make a change.
If you have a commute that you think can change for the better, email or call us and ask us how we can help. Maybe we can point you towards your local bike coalition, or a great local shop who can help recommend safe bike routes. Maybe you need a new bike, or maybe you just need to pump up the tires on your old 10-speed. Maybe you’re even considering an e-bike. We’d love to get you on a Faraday, but most of all we just want to get you where you’re going with a smile on your face and the wind in your hair. We know you can do it, and we’re pretty sure we can help.